Being a “bagel head” is, indeed, currently in vogue in Tokyo. Japanese body modification photographer Ryoichi “Keroppy” Maeda brought this trend to Japan in 2007 when he set up a team and started doing forehead infusions as a form of extreme body modification. He first witnessed the bizarre practice in 1999 at a body modification show in Toronto. He experienced it himself in 2003, and eventually asked permission from the artist who perfected the technique to bring it to Japan.

People resort to such extreme body modification techniques because they are into this kind of stuff and are always looking for ways to set themselves apart from the crowd and enjoying being freaks for one night.

The trend was featured in National Geographic’s “Taboo: Bagel Heads” on September 27, 2012, during which three Japanese opted to have injections on their forehead just to be “in” for the latest body modification trend in Japan.

“Bagel heading,” as the procedure is being called, can be performed at registered body modification clinics – the type of place that administers piercings and tattoos. Practitioners will insert a needle in the forehead to inject about 400 cc of saline solution (a sterile salt water safe for the human body) through an IV drip in order to create a swollen forehead-sized blob. The large bubble takes about two hours to form completely, at which point the body artist removes the drip and presses a thumb into the middle of the blob (or blobs) to create an a large, bagel-like shape on the person’s forehead.

Three Japanese bagelheads

The blob is just temporary, lasting for about 16 to 24 hours, after which the saline will eventually get absorbed by the body and the shape of the forehead goes back to normal.

Please be warned that the preview YouTube video of the National Geographic show below is not for the faint-hearted.

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In the video clip above, three people are shown undergoing the procedure at a clinic in Tokyo.

As one participant’s “bagel” is formed, the small crowd formed cheers. “Cute!” exclaims one young woman.

“Oh sweet buttery bagels,” laughs another man, seeing himself in the mirror. “I look delicious!”

When asked about the feeling, one of the recipients of the treatment, John, said: “It’s kind of a relaxing sensation, kind of tingly, and also a kind of building pressure that’s kind of slow and steady that kind of feels like it’s putting me to sleep.”

Double bagel heads

Questions about the danger of the trend are inevitable. According to Omar Ibrahimi, a dermatologist at the Connecticut Skin Institute and visiting assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, there are three potential risks.

First, the body can safely absorb normal saline solution injected under the skin but saline solution that is too concentrated can overload the body’s capacity to process salt. If a highly-concentrated hypertonic saline solution is used instead of the normal kind, for example, extreme dehydration of the kind that happens when you drink salt water can occur.

Secondly, if the saline solution isn’t sterile, bacterial or fungal infection may occur. Most of the pathogens commonly found in unsterilized water can be killed off by the immune system when ingested into the digestive tract; however, the pathogens have a higher chance of gaining a foothold when injected directly beneath the skin during bagel-head surgery. Such infections cause painful rashes that can last months, requiring strong antibiotic regimens and sometimes surgery to eradicate.

People who repeatedly go for the bagelhead procedure face the aesthetic risk of stretching the skin beyond its normal elasticity, causing permanent laxity. Bagel heads could then become deflated-bagel heads which would be a definite fashion mishap in anybody’s book.

Three people having bagel-head treatments in Japan (Photo Credit :National Geographic)